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Updated: June 6, 2013 14:40 IST

One small meal for children, one giant leap for literacy

Sriram V.
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HIDDEN HISTORIESThe idea of the noon meal scheme, now implemented across the country as the National Programme for Nutrition Support to Primary Education had its origins in a humble school in Mint Street, George Town.

Today, it is praised as one of the reasons for Tamil Nadu’s leading position in literacy. Generations of children from poor families came to school because of the one square meal they could have, and then stayed on to study. The idea of the noon meal scheme, now implemented across the country as the National Programme for Nutrition Support to Primary Education had its origins in a humble school in Mint Street, George Town.

The Hindu Theological School was founded in 1889, by a pioneering educationist – Sivasankara Pandya. He passed away in 1899 but the school flourished. In 1918, it took on its rolls as a teacher yet another personality – Kurichi Rangaswami Aiyangar. Born in 1888 in Thanjavur district, he aimed for a degree in law. When unsuccessful in his first attempt, he joined the Hindu Theological School.

One of his first observations was that several of the poor children of the area did not come to school. He also observed that among those who attended, several remained hungry during the lunch break, as their parents could not afford to send any food. Perhaps taking a leaf from the Chennapuri Annadana Samajam, which had begun sending cooked food to schools, he decided that the Hindu Theological would have its own kitchen. He seeded this with his savings and later aggressively canvassed for support from the parents of well-to-do students. The Deenabandhu Sangam was formed shortly thereafter which took on the task of providing the noon meal and also clothes to indigent students.

Aiyangar was to pass his law exam the subsequent year. He quit his job and donned the gown to practise law in Kumbhakonam. But the call of education was too strong. He was back at the Hindu Theological a short while later and stayed on to become headmaster in 1929. Ten years later, he became Secretary and Correspondent from which post he retired in 1944. He was immediately asked to take over as the Joint Secretary of the Lady Sivaswami Iyer Girls School in Mylapore. He became Secretary in 1953 and remained so till his passing in 1973. Widowed early in life, he chose not to remarry and dedicated his life to the two schools. In later years, he lived in a room in the Lady Sivaswami School.

The mid-day meal scheme was adopted in the 1920s by the Sourashtra community for a school it ran in Madurai. In 1956, K Kamaraj, then Chief Minister, introduced the scheme in some of the State-run schools. MGR, in1982, expanded the scheme, bringing into its ambit all the schools in the State run by the government. His detractors derided it as a populist move, which would drain the State exchequer. MGR went ahead regardless and the results are now available for all to see. In 2005, following a Supreme Court order, the scheme became compulsory in all States.

A small seed sowed by Rangaswami Aiyangar had become a massive tree.

The schools he nurtured continue to stand testimony to his greatness.


Law & OrderSeptember 24, 2010

Just to clarify on Mr Balaji's question - the scheme at the Hindu Theological began in
1918. The Justice Party effort, begun by Sundarrao Naidu was in the 1000 Lights area
and in 1920, two years after the Hindu Theological

from:  Sriram V
Posted on: Jun 27, 2012 at 20:47 IST

It was indeed a remarkable step by the late Sri Rangaswami Aiyangar for that era. For all I know, the action of Sri Aiyangar was a pioneering one and that should assume the programme of the Hindu Theological High School predates the midday meals scheme for Corporation schools.
Yes, the Deena Bandhu Sangam of the School today provides breakfast to needy students thanks to the voluntary contributions of philanthropic and charitable institutions such as the Condur Sampathu Chetty and Condur Padmavathi Amma Charities, Calimidi Namberumal Chetty Charities and Calmidi Alavandar Chetty Charities.
I wish that, following the article by V. Sriram, commercial institutions will come forward to give a helping hand to the project as well as to the state government, as part of their social commitment.
I wish Mr Sriram brings out more such hidden nuggets of information.

from:  JV Perumal
Posted on: Jun 27, 2012 at 19:14 IST

This story is self explanatory after a century we are on same platform i
do not know the intention of the people who started noon meal for poor
student. One philosophy is, on an empty stomach concentration cannot be on
any thing but if we feel for food if people can come to school and then
teacher will teach them then it is wrong practice. We are starting with
wrong intention. Hence after 100 years we feel same as our ancestor did.

from:  REHAN
Posted on: Jun 27, 2012 at 18:47 IST

Dear sir,
it is wonderful that the history of the school have been brought to light.
The noon meal scheme has been continued in the school with extension of break fast and evening refreshment, without collecting any fund from the present students. The school had placed a pioneer role in this way.
The school has the record that the scheme was inspected by the then Government and taken guidance to implement in Govt.Schools.

from:  selvaraj
Posted on: Jun 27, 2012 at 18:31 IST

I appreciate Mr.V.Sriram for having brought out the wonderful article,
further i wish to state the said Deena Bhandu Sangam has been carrying out the feeding of the poor at our school. Food is being prepared with good hygiene, fire wood kitchen has been replaced with indane gas pipe line kitchen, break fast and evening porridge has also been served. old students and some of the charities are supporting a lot. well wishers can contribute donations to the scheme and participate. School has been excelling in academic too. last it has achieved 100% in SSLC exam. Attendance percentageand regularity to school have been improved a lot because of this facilities provided at our school. Management has been supporting with full involvement, and many of them are old students of the institution and they are in the age group of 70s.

from:  Headmaster
Posted on: Jun 27, 2012 at 17:54 IST

I have read in the web-site of 'Dopahar' mid-day meal scheme of Bihar that mid-day meal scheme was already existing in the Madras municipal corporation in the 1920s. Also, in the wikipedia page of Justice party, it is written that the Justice party introduced a breakfast scheme for all the corporation schools in Madras city in 1920, which is referenced to "The Justice Party: a historical perspective, 1916-37 ", by P. Rajaraman. It would be nice if the author of the article confirms whether the scheme implemented in the Hindu Theological School was part of this scheme or it existed prior to this city wide programme. Thank you.

from:  Balaji Devaraju
Posted on: Jun 27, 2012 at 16:49 IST

I wish they could have inserted the latest photo of the school. The article could have gone further writing about the present status.

from:  Balasundaram
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 22:37 IST

Thanks for the article and bringing to light about Rangaswamy Iyengar.

from:  Jeeva
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 22:34 IST

So we have it: the amalgam of the National Food Security Bill ( in the
Bill's own words," particularly with reference to children " ) and the
Right to Education Act.
Hats off to the State of Tamilnadu, for being the precursor and beacon
light to the nation, that the two go together. I am a Tamilian born
and bred in Kolkata, and now resident in Chennai, and being an Indian
first, happy that this trend is emulated by all Indians.

G Krishnan

from:  G Krishnan
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 22:06 IST

Is there a way to make a personal contribution to help the noon meal scheme?

from:  Pixel
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 21:44 IST

Long back, I remember to have seen Sivaji Ganesan's picture on the cover of Kalki magazine, praising him for his donation of Rs.1,00,000 - must have been a huge sum then - to Shri Kamaraj, the then CM of Madras State for the latter's Midday Meals Scheme.

from:  D. Chandramouli
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 20:57 IST

Nice and informative.It is very painful to even imagine children stay
hungry through the day.It sure would be wonderful if rich corporates
devote more money to feed unfortunate children,instead of paying
unreasonable bonusses to their top level employees.

from:  vijay.k
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 18:02 IST

Even in rich countries like Canada, in poorer neighbourhoods, the schools provide breakfast and hot lunch, as a significant section of the populace, do not have the werewithal to feed their children. Midday meals should be supplemented by a nourishing breakfast as well. The time has come.

from:  Rajamani
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 17:24 IST

Dear sir,

I salute the great soul's vision and foresight to uplift the poor.

Now a days it is very difficult to see such forward thinking personalities and selfless service minded people. Now we are seeing all the so called leaders are self centered and seeing what percentage they will get benefited from each and every scheme they announce and how much their business houses will get benefitted from the government schemes.

I am not accusing everybody but there are some exceptions but they are not in the decision making category. Also we are in the period of " the person who requests some information using RTI act is getting killed by the concerned politically influenced people" I wonder when we will be a free society without any fear and with a social thinking of well being for all.

Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 15:26 IST

Very interesting.

In today's system, it is unfortunate that while the financial support
for the food-scheme is available, the teachers are absent. At least,
teachers of the kind that can work with under-privileged children. The
mad-race for careers, and lucrative jobs ensures that a teaching-job in
a remote village.. or even a city-chawl, would be beneath the dignity of
present day graduates.

from:  saumendra
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 15:15 IST

Thanks to Hindu for publishing the history behind the noon meal scheme. It's very heartening to read about these kind of people, they just rendered their service without any selfish motives, Education should inculcate these kind of things in young children. Again congrat's to Hindu.

from:  Thiravidamani
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 14:28 IST

Great Article.

Humble beginnings go a long way in the establishment of a great organisation. We live in Mylapore & in Chennai but were not aware of this piece of history.


from:  Janaki Ravichandran
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 14:22 IST

Good article clearly bringing out the facts.The politicians might have forgotten people like Mr.Rangaswami Ayengar.But history can not be rewritten.

from:  Dr Ganesh
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 13:38 IST

Heartening to read about such noble souls.
You should bring out such stories on regular basis rather that giving too much foucs on venal and abominable personalities who are in public life now.

from:  Chandrasekhar
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 12:56 IST

Nice Article. Nice to know such stories, which in turn encourages us for doing something to society.

from:  Prakash
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 12:24 IST

This must be the richest tribute to the man who founded the Mid-day Meal scheme. Hats off to the visionary in him.

from:  M.S.Chagla
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 12:22 IST

100 years on - Same story...Same plight of the poor people !!

from:  Anshul
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 12:20 IST

What is proved is that great thinking does not come from elite education but simple thinking and attitude towards the society! It is so inspiring to know that state had the fortune of these noble souls in contemporary India and true leaders! Salute to them!

from:  Rajendran
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 09:45 IST

Well said!. Noon meal scheme pioneered by Tamilnadu is the single most important scheme
for the upliftment of poor. Lots of credit should be given to MGR for implementing in large
scale by using his political will. Author should have also mentioned how this scheme broke
caste barriers to large extend and gave employment opportunities for thousands of women.

from:  Ramakrishnan
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 09:31 IST

Thats really a great news to hear. Its a milestone towards education in India. There are a lot of villages in India where such schemes haven't reached at all. Government should take necessary steps to make them properly reach the masses.

from:  Karthik Sivakumar
Posted on: Jun 26, 2012 at 05:52 IST
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